PSNI slams UDA ‘power trip’ in Larne

Crowds of up to 100 people were involved in disorder that started at around 8.40pm in the Knockdhu Park and Ferris Avenue areas of the Co Antrim town.

Police who arrived at the scene were attacked and one officer required hospital treatment to a head injury.

A family of five were inside one of the homes on Ferris Avenue when it was targeted. Its windows were smashed and damage was caused to the interior.

A mother and her two sons living nearby also had their home and car both badly damaged.

Police had made two arrests in the area on the previous afternoon following a fight involving five men.

On Sunday several people were also assaulted at the scene- a man living at a property on Knockdhu Park was left seriously injured and was taken to hospital – where he remains in a stable condition.

The police have confirmed his house was damaged a fortnight ago on 18 March.

ACC Hamilton said that members of the public alerted police at around 7.40pm to “a large number of paramilitary types” in Carrickfergus – some of whom were masked.

“The assessment was they were probably meeting in Carrickfergus to go on somewhere else. Police identified a number of possibilities, based on recent rises in tension across east Antrim. About an hour later, we had the first attack on a house in Larne and police responded to that within three minutes.”

It is significant, this isn’t an isolated incident. Tension has been mounting within the Larne area over the last number of weeks and months.

ACC George Hamilton

ACC Hamilton attributed the attack to the south east Antrim UDA, whose members “seemed to be on a power trip”, adding the grouping was “disparate” from other elements within the UDA.

“Within the last week we actually arrested six people who would be connected to this grouping, they have been charged with things such as threats to kill and intimidation, criminal damage and so on,” he said.

“These groups seem to want to have some power or legitimacy within communities and it’s very important that the community themselves don’t do anything to give legitimacy to these groups. There are ways of dealing with tensions and with difficulties within communities.”

ACC Hamilton explained that two patrol cars responded to the first instance of disorder, followed by around 25 riot officers 15 minutes later and another public order unit soon after.

“In a town the size of Larne, I think the number of police officers that we had available to deploy very quickly to that scenario last night was proportionate. If you were the victim of that last night, you probably wouldn’t see it that way, but of course resources are not endless.”

He said extra resources have been put in place in the area following the outbreak of trouble.

The south east Antrim UDA should get off the backs of the people of Larne and disband immediately.

Oliver McMullan, Sinn Féin

Local Church of Ireland Minister, Rev Harold Sharp, visited the area to console those left traumatised by the events.

“They are still in a state of shock and disbelief that people could come into the Larne area and cause such devastation,” he told UTV.

“They just couldn’t believe that it was happening and that it was happening so blatantly, that it should be possible for people to come armed with the intent of violence, for violence has achieved nothing in the past. I’m just appalled, what’s the benefit of it all, what has been achieved except to generate fear.”

Sinn Féin East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan said that he would be asking for a report on the police response to the incident as he claims he had warned them such an attack was “imminent”.

“Some of the victims of last night’s attacks have already been attacked on more than one occasion,” he said.

“I acknowledge the courage and the efforts of the police officers injured in an effort to prevent an attack on one of the homes.

“However, it’s worrying that police were unable to apprehend any of the 70 to 100 strong mob involved in the attacks.”

DUP Deputy Mayor of Larne Drew Niblock appealed for calm in the town and no retaliation.

“Whilst these two homes have been subject to attacks in the past few weeks, this is not indicative of what goes on in Larne, Larne has just completed a very successful half-marathon on Saturday, the Giro d ‘Italia will be coming through the town in May, it is a thriving port and there has been relative peace in Larne over the past years,” he commented.

UUP MLA for the area, Roy Beggs condemned those behind the attacks and appealed for anyone with information to contact police.

He said: “This is serious, organised crime endangering life. I would call for significant additional police resources to be dedicated to address those who are challenging British law and the justice system.”

Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson also condemned those responsible for the violence, stating that “there is no place for this type of public disorder on our streets”.

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